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Blog

Pinboard turns five years old

Weiran Zhang

I find that the longer I run the site, the more resistant I become to the idea of ever giving it up, even if I need to take the occasional break. It is pleasant to work on something that people draw benefit from. It is especially pleasant to work on something lasting. And I enjoy the looking-glass aspect of our industry, where running a mildly profitable small business makes me a crazy maverick not afraid to break all the rules.

Pinboard is the outlier, it bucks the trend, or maybe its the trend setter. I know I've been a very happy customer for over four years.

We can learn a lot from Maciej Cegłowski.

Why does Apple want to buy Beats?

Weiran Zhang

Apple's interest in Beats Electronics got me thinking about their headphones. I know Apple is probably buying Beats for their music streaming rather than their hardware, but one doesn't come with the other and the most iconic product of Beats are their headphones.

A glance at your Twitter feed today and you would've seen endless comments comparing Beats customers to uninformed sheep willing to make Dr Dre rich by buying his ridiculously oversized yet mediocre sounding headphones. After that, theres the inevitable link to some headphones half the price and twice as good.

To an extent I agree with them, Beats headphones are overpriced, but I'm not sure anyone buying a pair is under the impression they're getting a bargain, or even that they're getting the best headphones for their money. They're buying Beats headphones because they want them.

What Jimmy Iovine achieved is to explode a niche industry into the mainstream. How many people did you see buying £250 heaphones before Beats? That is nothing short of a miracle. This makes me think the deeper reason Apple wants Beats Electronic, is because they want Jimmy Iovine.

Yet somehow, in all this news about headphones and music streaming, they forgot about Iovine.

dot net notts

Weiran Zhang

Marvin Rounce and I are thrilled to announce dot net notts, a user group for .NET stack developers.

We hoping to build a first-class community of .NET developers from across the East Midlands, and we have an incredibly lineup of speakers and generous sponsors.

Our first event is on April 28 and features Richard Conway talking about Microsoft Azure.

Make sure you RSVP on Meetup to get your free beer and pizza on the night.

Bamboo iPhone Case Review

Weiran Zhang

As far as cases go, Snugg's Bamboo Case for iPhone is a pretty good one.

I've never really used cases, much to the detriment of the exterior of my iPhone. Cosmetically it has lots of the typical nicks and scratches from an 18 month old black iPhone 5, but anecdotally the screen seems more resisitant to cracking when dropped. I speak from experience after dropping my iPhone from pocket height with a case on and still having the screen crack.

However there are situations where I wouldn't be comfortable using my iPhone without a case, and travelling to the Arctic Circle is one of them. When Snugg offered me the case to review, Finland seemed like the ideal place to try it.

The first thing you notice is the weight, or the lack of it. I find it hard to tell if the case is on purely by weight alone. But, you will certainly notice the bulk. It makes the iPhone feel twice as thick as it normally does, which makes it more comfortable to hold, especially with gloves on. Personally I don't like how bulky the case is, but those with bigger hands might prefer it.

The second problem is how close the edge wraps over the front, this makes doing edge gestures much harder, something common in iOS 7 for common actions like swiping back in Safari.

The case is reasonably well made, although it does feel a bit flimsy around the volume and wake/sleep buttons. Expect those areas to suffer first.

Overall if you're in the market for an iPhone case and fancy something with an exotic material, the Snugg Bamboo Case is a pretty good case. Personally, I prefer the leather Apple iPhone case as the attention to detail and workmanship are the best of any case I've seen.

Neil Young's Pono

Weiran Zhang

Why push back against 24/192? Because it’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, a business model based on willful ignorance and scamming people. The more that pseudoscience goes unchecked in the world at large, the harder it is for truth to overcome truthiness… even if this is a small and relatively insignificant example.

I find it interesting how rational people get duped by this kind of psuedo-science when it involves music.

Why Google Needs 'Don't Be Evil'

Weiran Zhang

"Don't be evil" is synonymous with Google, it's their corporate identity. But have you ever stopped and wondered why? Why does Google need to remind itself that it needs be good, and why it's their slogan?

Google's strategy is to sell advertising. To do that, it needs to collect user data in order to show relevant adverts so it's customers will buy more ads. The nature of this strategy pushes Google towards being evil. It has to collect very personal and sensitive information about it's users, and some of the best minds in technology are working at better ways to collect information and sell ads.

It still boggles my mind how many people don't see Google's motivations, and what they may or may not do with all the data Google is collecting about them. They see Google as a company that offers them lots of free software for nothing in return, and they are only too happy to use it. To them, "Don't be evil" doesn't have (or need) a paticular meaning.

But the users who are conscious of Google's strategy, this is where the motto "Don't be evil" really starts to make sense. If you are aware, then there is a constant tension between how many of Google's great products you should use, and the amount of data you are willing to give to Google. What are they going to do with this data? Who are they going to sell it to? Do I even know what data they are collecting about me? "Don't be evil" is designed to placates these questions, and to remove the tension from using their products. Google's ongoing success with online services is evidence that "Don't be evil" was a brilliant move.

But we have a choice, a choice to use products from companies with a strategy that doesn't push them towards being evil, companies that don't need "Don't be evil" as their motto.

Vote with your data, don't give it to Google.

The new-new Mac Pro

Weiran Zhang

Lots of people were worried when the new-old Mac Pro was released last June. It was an incredibly incremental update, with slightly newer CPUs and a slightly reduced price. People interpreted this as Apple abandoning the pro desktop market in favour of their prosumer models.

They couldn't have been more wrong.

macpro.jpg

We didn't want to just make another version of the same old desktop idea that everyone's had. Like with MacBook Air, our engineering team has spent quite a bit of time thinking about the technology available today and what could be possible for the future of the pro desktop, what would be a new form factor, new design, new capabilities for another ten years.

The new-new Mac Pro embodies what Apple does best, completely rethink a product and refine it's category. This almost always leads to complaints from some users who aren't happy with the changes made. The lack of internal expansion or upgradability is the main gripe, and another is that the smaller doesn't benefit them.

Their ideal scenario would've been to keep the old Mac Pro case, and stuff it with the latest internals. But if Apple did that, it would be another sign of the demise of the Mac Pro, a sign that they didn't care. But by putting the effort into redesigning and rethinking the concept of a pro desktop computer, Apple has set the standard of the next generation desktop.

Will we see more pro desktop machines from competitors similar to the Mac Pro? I'm sure Samsung already has one in the works, but given the history of how long it took them to respond to the MacBook Air, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Stop validating email addresses with your complex Regex

Weiran Zhang

David Celis:

Just send your users an email. The activation email is a practice that’s been in use for years, but it’s often paired with complex validations that the email is formatted correctly. If you’re going to send an activation email to users, why bother using a gigantic regular expression?

Very, very flat

Weiran Zhang

The new interface is said to be “very, very flat,” according to one source. Another person said that the interface loses all signs of gloss, shine, and skeumorphism seen across current and past versions of iOS. Another source framed the new OS as having a level of “flatness” approaching recent releases of Microsoft’s Windows Phone “Metro” UI.

I can't wait to see what this looks like.

The New York Times gets its Pulitzer for picking on Apple

Weiran Zhang

It didn't matter that every major U.S. electronics company assembles its products under the same working conditions -- or worse. Or that Apple was actually doing something about them. (Tim Cook called the Times' implication that Apple didn't care what happened to its subcontractors' workers "patently false and offensive.")

The fact is, the New York Times knows how to win Pulitzers -- better than any other journalistic operation. It has now won a record 112. It employs editors who specialize in identifying Pulitzer-winning topics and assigning reporters who will bring them home.

And that's what it set out to do -- with Apple as its conspicuous subject -- in seven major stories capped with a self-serving kicker that suggested that it was Times' reporting that led to substantive changes in the working conditions in China's electronics factories:

I guess winning is a higher priority than being correct.

Don't be a Padhole

Weiran Zhang

Glad to see Maddox back at his best.

Tablets can take pictures, but tablets can also slice cheese, stop doors from closing and fix wobbly tables. The day I start seeing people fix wobbly tables and slicing cheese with tablets is the day I'll relax my stance on tablet photos. But don't count on it.

Google wants to control new 'dotless' search domain

Weiran Zhang

The most interesting plan here is to use .search to operate a redirect service on the “on the ‘dotless’ .search domain (http://search/) that, combined with a simple technical standard, will allow a consistent query interface across firms that provide search functionality, and will enable users to easily conduct searches with firms that provide the search functionality that they designate as their preference.”

So the biggest search engine would control the new 'search' domain, other search engines would have to beg them for access, and they would be privvy to every search performed through that top level domain.

Sounds great.

Apple didn't ban comic but got the blame anyway

Weiran Zhang

We did not interpret the content in question as involving any particular sexual orientation, and frankly that would have been a completely irrelevant consideration under any circumstance.

Given this, it should be clear that Apple did not reject Saga #12.

After hearing from Apple this morning, we can say that our interpretation of its policies was mistaken. You’ll be glad to know that Saga #12 will be available on our App Store app soon.

But Apple is evil.

Open season

Weiran Zhang

Matt Drance:

Google knew what it was doing when it made and marketed Android as an “open” system. It surely anticipated forks by handset makers as a manageable risk as long as Google kept advancing the system. But I wonder if it expected something like Facebook Home: an inside-out heist, made by a company after the same exact user data and advertisers Google is after. How it chooses to respond in the near future should give us an answer.

Filming of farm cruelty is becoming the crime

Weiran Zhang

The New York Times:

One of the group’s model bills, “The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act,” prohibits filming or taking pictures on livestock farms to “defame the facility or its owner.” Violators would be placed on a “terrorist registry.”

In the land of the free, you can't record interactions with the police, you can't publish leaked information if it embaresses the government, and you're branded a terrorist if you try to expose animal cruelty.

Apple changes VPN on Demand behaviour due to lawsuit

Weiran Zhang

Devices using iOS 6.1 and later with VPN On Demand configured to "Always" will behave as if they were configured with the "Establish if needed" option. The device will establish a VPN On Demand connection only if it is unable to resolve the DNS name of the host it is trying to reach. This change will be distributed in an update later this month.

This will only affect iOS devices that are configured with an enterprise configuration profile that mandates traffic to certain servers always be through a VPN.

Essentially it seems VirnetX got a patent for a white list.

App.net